Atlanta United players close to fit for MLS resumption

With MLS creeping toward a return to action near the end of June in a tournament based in Orlando, two Atlanta United players Friday said they the team is doing a good job of getting them physically ready for whatever is next.

Speaking before the league announced that voluntary small-group training sessions could resume Friday, and before the MLSPA voted late Friday night to go ahead with a version of the league’s Orlando proposal (it must be approved by the league), Jeff Larentowicz and Mo Adams praised the team’ doctors and trainers Friday.

“As far as fitness goes, I think we are in a great spot,” Larentowicz said. “Fortunate to have a club that’s taken all the proper steps to let us get out there and keep us safe and allow us to get back onto the field. I can’t say that for every club in the league, and I think that goes back to all the hurdles we are trying to jump over right now.”

Atlanta United opened its training facility for the first day of voluntary individual workouts May 6. All of the players who are healthy and in the metro Atlanta area have participated in the workouts. MLS suspended its season March 12 because of concerns about COVID-19. Atlanta United was 2-0-0.

“Being close to coaching staff and players, being able to communicate with each other has made this a smoother journey than it could have been,” Adams said. “We are working extremely hard on the training field trying to compete with another. Training sessions have been demanding. Training isn’t like games. …There is still some way to go.”

On Friday, the league announced that small-group sessions could begin as long as social-distancing measures were followed.

On Saturday, The Athletic and ESPN reported that the MLSPA voted to move forward with the league’s proposal to relocate 26 teams to Orlando. However, the league must satisfy several demands, including ratifying the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was agreed to in February, as well as an approved health-and-safety plan for the players in central Florida.

If the league agrees to the demands, the teams would arrive in Orlando near June 24 for around six weeks to compete in a tournament whose games count in the league standings. The teams would be broken into groups of three to compete in a tournament. The teams that finish with the most points will advance to a knockout stage.

The possibility of playing a few games in a short time after not playing any since early March may require the managers to dip deeply into the roster and take advantage of the five-sub rule approved for temporary use by FIFA in early May.

“It gives everyone a chance to go out there and compete,” Adams said.